June 6, 2016 Rob Poole

Don’t Let Balboa Reservoir Be a Missed Opportunity

The 17-acre parking lot at Balboa Reservoir could one day become a vibrant community, with new housing, retail, public amenities and parks. Given that it’s a 15-minute walk to the Balboa BART Station, less than 5 minutes from MUNI light rail, and adjacent to City College, the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition (SFHAC) believes this is a prime opportunity to build a lot of market-rate and permanently affordable housing at a time when we need it more than ever.

But, after almost two years of engagement among the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the local Citizen Advisory Committee and neighborhood groups, the amount of homes proposed only range from 500-1,000. That’s between 29 and 59 units per acre. The local affordable housing advocacy group, Council of Community Housing Organizations, wants as few as 300 affordable homes needing a city subsidy of $100 million! That’s about 17 units per acre, a pretty paltry number and more in keeping with suburban land use patterns (Keep in mind, none of these numbers are official and the final outcome is still to be determined). Frankly, this would be the wrong approach for this land given its transit-rich location and our dire need for more housing at all levels of affordability.

To see what’s possible for a site this size, we examined four comparably sized projects that were recently approved, especially how many homes per acre they propose.

Mission Rock
Mission RockNeighborhood: South Beach
Size: 18 Acres (discluding the 10 acres of Pier 48 historic buildings not being developed)
Homes: 1,500
Units/Acre: 83
Affordability: 40 percent (45-150 percent of AMI)
Height Limit: 120-240 feet
Approved on Nov. 2015 Ballot with 74% of vote
Open Space: Eight acres
                                                              If Balboa Reservoir met this density: 1,411 homes

Schlage Lock
Schlage LockNeighborhood: Visitacion Valley
Size: 20 Acres
Units: 1,679 Homes
Units per acre: 84
Affordability: 15 percent
Height Limit: 57-86 feet
Open Space: Over two acres
If Balboa Reservoir met this density: 1,428 homes

Pier 70
pier 70Neighborhood: Dogpatch
Size: 28 acres
Homes: 1,000-2,000 (Used 1,500 to calculate density)
Units/acre: 75
Affordability: 30 percent
Height Limit: 90 feet
Approved on Nov. 2014 ballot with 73% of the vote
Open Space: Nine acres
If Balboa Reservoir met this density: 1,275 homes

parkmerced_renderingNeighborhood: Parkmerced
Size: 116 acres (discluding 36 acres of streets)
Homes: 8,900
Units/acre: 77
Affordability: 15 percent
Height Limit: 40-140 feet
Open Space: 68 acres
If Balboa Reservoir met this density: 1,309 homes

When compared to these developments, it’s easy to imagine Balboa Reservoir with considerably more than 1,000 homes. In order to maximize affordability, provide lots of open space and get people out of their cars, it makes sense to support greater density at Balboa Reservoir. It might mean a slight increase in building heights, with some going as tall as 85 feet. A little more height and well-designed ground-floor spaces would benefit far more people than what’s being proposed today. The SFHAC will continue its advocacy for increased density on this 17-acre parking lots because it is an opportunity that rarely comes along!

Make your voice heard to change the outcome of Balboa Reservoir – attend an upcoming Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting. You can also email the members of the CAC directly.

Balboa Reservoir CAC:
Lisa Spinali – sunnyside.president@gmail.com
Kate Favetti – Board@westwoodpark.com
Maria Picar – BRCAC@sfgov.org
Brigitte Davila – bd@brigittedavila.com
Robert Muehlbauer – rmuehlbauer@live.com
Howard Chung – hnchung@yahoo.com
Rebecca Lee – tsaiweilee@hotmail.com
Christine Godinez – cgodinez@lwhs.org
Jon Winston – jon.winston.brcac@outlook.com

Are you interested in becoming an advocate for more housing in San Francisco? Then become a member! We have options for individuals and businesses of all levels.

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Rob Poole

Rob is the former Development and Communications Manager at SFHAC.

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